Destitution is defined as experience of at least two of six measures over the previous month, including eating fewer than two meals a day for two or more days; or as a weekly income after housing costs of £70 for a single adult or £140 for a couple with children – an amount below which people “cannot meet their core material needs for basic physiological functioning from their own resources”.
Extreme poverty – where families are routinely unable to afford regular meals, wash clothes or provide their children with basic items such as beds and sheets – is becoming more common, according to frontline family support workers.
Three-quarters of support professionals such as health visitors and social workers said they had seen an increase in the numbers of families they regularly worked with who experienced destitution and were in need of basic financial support.
Despite more families facing greater difficulties, official support was harder to come by, the survey found. “The only substantive increase in support over the last year was the increase in the number of families support workers have seen using food banks,” it read.4 million children in the UK live below the breadline – a cohort of the very poorest families is experiencing the extreme and intractable form of poverty known as destitution.
Joseph Howes, Buttle, the poverty grants charity, UK’s chief executive, said that although the charity was used to working with families with very little, they had been shocked by the scale and extent of the deprivation. “Make no mistake, this report shows that there are real individuals behind the statistics who are struggling on a day-to-day basis in the UK.”